by JAKE NUTTING

After a perfect three-match homestand to begin their first season in the United Soccer League, the Tampa Bay Rowdies are hitting the road for the first time to take on Louisville City FC. Louisville is also unbeaten in its first three matches, though an opening week draw against Saint Louis FC leaves it two points back of the Rowdies in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Rowdies and Louisville were first and second in the Eastern Conference standings until Saint Louis’ midweek win lifted it into first place. Saint Louis has played one more match than Tampa Bay and Louisville.

Match Info:

Saturday, April 15, 7:30 p.m. ET.
Watch HERE
Referee: Andrew Musashe

Louisville’s Form: 0-0 vs.Saint Louis, 3-1 W at Orlando City B, 1-0 W at Richmond Kickers

Louisville’s Last Time Out

Starting XI: (4-2-31)Tim Dobrowolski; Kyle Smith, Oscar Jimenez, Sean Totsch, Tarek Morad; Paolo Delpiccolo, Speedy Williams; Richard Ballard, George Davis, Brian Ownby; Luke Spencer

Scoring: George Davis IV (Penalty, 81st minute)

Stats

  • 54.6% Possession
  • 6 Corner Kicks
  • 81.7% Passing Accuracy (446 Completed out of 546 attempted)
  • 78% Passing Accuracy in Opponent’s End
  • 6 of 13 shots on target

Like the Rowdies, Louisville aims to play an attack-minded style. Louisville has actually outshot the Rowdies 51-47 through three matches, but it has only managed to put 11 percent of those shots on target.

Central midfielder George Davis IV is given freedom to float around the field to help spur the attack any way he can, similar to the role Joe Cole fills with Tampa Bay. Davis,29, is a seasoned USL veteran off to a tremendous start this year. He’s tallied two goals, one assist and is second on the team in scoring chances created (6), behind defender Oscar Jimenez (7). Davis also has good chemistry with attacker Brian Ownby from their time together in Richmond in 2015.

Louisville keeper Tim Dobrowolski and Tampa Bay’s Akira Fitzgerald have only had to make five saves thanks to the work of the defense in front of them. 6-foot-2-inch center back Sean Totsch leads the team in aerial duels won (14) and has won the most tackles of any of Louisville’s defenders (20). Left back Tarek Morad is also keeping things locked down, recording 15 of the team’s 33 clearances.

Until Louisville’s recently announced 10,000-seat stadium proposal becomes a reality, the team will continue to call Louisville Slugger Stadium home. If the name didn’t give it away, Slugger Stadium is an active baseball facility, meaning the playing field is narrower than most and the infield area has some tricky uneven patches. The team has averaged about 7,000 in its first two seasons and the supporters have formed a festive atmosphere that should offer a good first road test for the Rowdies.

Keep an Eye On

Not only will this upcoming week be the first challenge for the Rowdies away from home, it will also probe their depth. Following Saturday’s match in Louisville, the Rowdies will battle FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium on Wednesday before returning to Al Lang to square off with the Charleston Battery three days later. Coach Stuart Campbell kept his starting lineup the same until an ankle injury last week eliminated winger Leo Fernandes. That kind of consistency is unlikely over the busy eight-day stretch, opening the door for others on the roster to step up.

IMAGE, PATRICK PATTERSON